EMMITSBURG -- If and when Washington Bullets general manager John Nash determines whether John Williams and Ledell Eackles will be available this season, he could face another contract hassle with small forward Bernard King, probably the team's most productive player the past two seasons.
King, 33, who becomes a free agent after this season, voiced disappointment yesterday that the Bullets have not made a serious effort to re-sign him.
"They've put me on the back burner, and I'm not pleased about it," he said. "I work very hard, I'm one of the best forwards in the league and I provide leadership on this team. If management can't satisfy me, I won't be here next year. I believe things always turn out for the best."
King's agent, Bob Woolf, contacted Nash in August and again last month in an effort to open contract negotiations, but talks were put on hold.
"I told Bob that I would like to wait the first few months of the season before doing anything," Nash said. "I still need time to evaluate this team and determine what are our alternatives at small forward. For instance, can Harvey Grant continue to improve and can Tommy Hammonds play the position?"
Nash has had nothing but praise for King, who continues to set a standard for veterans and rookies alike with his tireless work and aggressive play. He again easily out-distanced the field in the 1 1/2 -mile run, finishing the race and returning on his own for additional sprints.
"I believe that, in the '80s, the two players most overlooked as fa as recognition in the NBA have been Bernard King and [Boston Celtics center] Robert Parish," Nash said. "They're both impossible to play against, and could have been considered MVPs.
"Bernard is always in shape. He has the same businesslike approach to basketball as Julius Erving did in his brilliant career."
King was considered a $3 million gamble when the Bullets signed him to a two-year contract as a free agent in 1987, after he had spent nearly two years rehabilitating his knee.
But the former New York Knicks star more than proved his worth, finishing among the league's top 20 scorers the past two seasons. In 1989-90, he averaged 22.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists while playing in all 82 games.
"I worked harder than ever this summer on conditioning," he said. "I enjoy my job and competing on a high level, and I don't mind paying the price. I'm not conscious of setting an example for the young players. That's a bonus. I do this for Bernard King. I don't seek recognition, only self-satisfaction."